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David Allan Coe

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A life-long renegade, singer/songwriter David Allan Coe is one of the most colorful and unpredictable characters in country music history. One of the pioneering artists of the outlaw country movement of the ’70s, he hasn’t had many big hits — only three of his singles hit the Top Ten — but he has been among the biggest cult figures in country music throughout his career.

Born in Akron, OH, Coe first got into trouble with the law at age nine. As a result, he was sent to reform school. For the next 20 years, he never spent more than a handful of months outside of a correctional facility — he spent much of his twenties in the Ohio State Penitentiary. Released from prison in 1967, the wild-haired, earring-wearing, heavily tattooed Coe went straight for Nashville, where he lived in a hearse that he parked in front of the old Ryman Auditorium, the home of the Grand Ole Opry. Although he didn’t conform to Nashville’s professional standards, he soon gained the attention of the independent label Plantation Records, which released his debut album, Penitentiary Blues, in 1968. Followed within a year by a second volume, all of the songs on these albums were based on his prison experiences.

Coe then toured with Grand Funk Railroad, a signal that he drew as much from rock’s traditions as he did from country. Soon, he began performing in a rhinestone suit given to him by Mel Tillis, as well as a Lone Ranger mask, and began calling himself the “Mysterious Rhinestone Cowboy.

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